Mike and Alicia Ketcher look for opportunities to make money both on and off the farm

Mike and Alicia Ketcher live in Bunch, Okla. Both are lifetime members of the FFA, and Alicia was the Northeast District FFA State Vice President. The couple strongly believe in the importance of 4-H and FFA. Mike said, “Those organizations teach leadership and responsibility and as a result produce excellent citizens.”
The couple met at a Fort Smith, Ark., stock show, and their first date was attending a George Strait concert. They have a daughter, Dakota, attending the University of Arkansas and a son, Colt, who has recently bought his first home. Alicia smiled and said, “We didn’t help our son buy his home because no mother is ever willing to break a plate.” The couple also has a new granddaughter named Briar Ann who is obviously one of the joys of their life.
Both Mike and Alicia work off the ranch. Mike owns a United Country Realty business. His mother retired from the post office and went into selling real estate, so his decision to go into real estate was an easy one that resulted with them starting their own office 27 years ago. Mike said, “I have spent over a quarter of a century helping people acquire the American dream of home ownership.” Alicia is currently the principal at the Westville Upper Elementary School.
For further off-the-farm income the couple buys homes and fixes them up for resale. They do almost all of the work themselves because, according to Mike, if they don’t, they won’t make money. Mike added, “Alicia is a real hard worker. She carried every bundle of shingles on the last garage I roofed.”
In spite of their busy lives off the ranch, ranching is clearly what they love. The story of their ranching life is also the story of buying and selling land. The first land purchased was 20 acres in Stilwell, Okla. Mike admitted with a grin that he has been in debt since he was 15 though not as much now. Because of the buying and selling of land, the couple lived in four places in six years until Alicia finally gave Mike an ultimatum. Mike explained, “Alicia told me the next time I move I was going by myself, so I stayed.” Where Mike stayed was a 180-acre spread in Bunch.
Through the years the couple has bought and sold land until adding several tracts over the years. Mike admits that he will probably keep buying and selling land when good opportunities present themselves.
In 2011, Mike made the decision to sell about 50 percent of his commercial herd because of the drought conditions and a belief that the conditions wouldn’t improve in 2012. One result of that decision is that he carried over hay from 2011 which, when combined with the 90 acres he baled, will get the ranch through this winter. Sufficient hay usage includes the replacement cattle he plans to buy during the winter. When asked how many cattle he currently has, Mike said, “I have too many to feed and not enough to sell.”
The Ketcher herd mostly comes from Charolais bulls with crossbred cows because Mike believes Charolais calves will outgrow anything else when crossed. He also loves Brahma and Tigerstripes. Mike said, “Full-blooded Brahmas are my favorite because they’re like old pets and Tigerstripes are healthy.” To support his love of the Brahma and Tigerstripes, he also bought a set of Brahma cows and bred them to a Hereford bull to get his Tigerstripes. The Ketcher herd is as diverse as it is enjoyed. Calves are sold straight off the momma with about half in the spring and half in the fall.
Mike uses four-wheelers and two Australian shepherds for rounding up the cattle. Mike explained that the Australian Shepherds were the smartest dogs he ever worked with. He also said that they were a perfect compromise in his mind because they were more aggressive than Collies but not as aggressive as Catahoulas.
Like many farmers, Mike believes you have to pay attention all of the time in order to be as safe as possible. He added, “You still get hurt because stuff just happens.” For Mike, that means three injuries. The first was a horse flipping on him during a rodeo when he was young which, resulted in a pin and two screws in his ankle. Later he had a steel rod put in his hand when working with a cow. His last injury about 10 years ago resulted from falling on ice when feeding hay to the cattle. That injury required drilling two holes into his head which caused some memory loss. Fortunately, none of the injuries have slowed him down a bit.
Mike is not all work, however. Mike said, “If you grow up around here, you grow up hunting and fishing, and I spend way too much time fishing.” Mike is a competitive bass fishermen and has qualified for the ABA National Bass Championship in 2012. He often fishes at Tenkiller Lake because it is only seven miles from his home.


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